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Dear Evil Engineer: How can I slice my enemies in half with a laser?

Image credit: Dreamstime

In the first of a new series, our resident evil engineer strives to help and guide wannabe villains.

Evil Engineer laser illustration

E&T Magazine

Image credit: E&T Magazine

Dear Evil Engineer,

I’m an ambitious villainous industrialist hoping to innovate in the evil sector. I’m full of disruptive new solutions for the villainy market, but I have an image problem holding me back from achieving the levels of notoriety I aim for. The other villains laugh at me because I shoot my enemies instead of killing them by sadistic, long drawn-out means. I’m most drawn to the classic method of bisecting my enemies with a laser, but don’t know where to start! Please help me.


A villain in need


Dear villain,

Thank you for your letter. First, let me urge you to ignore the taunts. Have confidence in the originality of your evil schemes and your hard work will pay off. However, you’re right to give consideration to the means by which you dispatch with your enemies, and zapping a do-gooder’s jiggly bits would be a strong power move for an upcoming villain such as yourself.

If you’re taking inspiration from a certain appropriately-named gold tycoon, I assume you’ll want to employ an industrial cutting laser to bisect your enemies lengthways. As luck would have it, Professor Shane Hutson of Vanderbilt University was among a team of scrumptiously evil scientists who carried out a study into how quickly lasers ablate soft tissue. For these purposes, he suggests a pulsed laser with a spot diameter of 0.1mm, pulse width of 1ns and frequency of 100Hz, which can etch through soft tissue at a rate of 17.5(μm/pulse/mJ)×(pulse energy).

A typical 50W industrial laser with these specs would dispatch 100 500mJ pulses per second. That’s enough to vaporise a hole in soft tissue 0.01cm wide and 85.7cm deep every second. So a muscular hunk of an enemy with a torso 30cm deep and measuring 100cm from groin to scalp would take approximately an hour to bisect, as long as he is willing to lie very, very still (I suggest a firm initial blow to the head).

Of course, you must lead a busy life so you may wish to dispense with your enemies more efficiently. The US Navy’s tremendously villainous laser weapons system is said to be able to fire a 50kW laser at small aircraft and boats. If you were in a position to acquire and power up a laser of that might, it could have your helpless enemy in two pieces before you can say “No Mr Bond, I expect you to fry”.

Although there are other, less well-worn approaches to bisection (I’d suggest industrial water jet cutters for terrifying results), the classic laser bifurcation approach could establish your reputation as a ruthless and sophisticated villain, and silence your sniggering rivals in the process. Good luck!

The Evil Engineer

PS: Please avoid talking about “disruptive new solutions”. It’s a step too far even for a villain.

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